Isabel dos Santos

Isabel dos Santos (born 20 April 1973) is an Angolan-Russian businesswoman, the eldest child of Angola's former President José Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled the country as a dictator from 1979 to 2017.[citation needed] Once considered Africa's richest woman according to Forbes magazine, with a net worth exceeding US$2 billion, she was dropped from the magazine's list in January 2021 after the freezing of her assets in Angola, Portugal and the Netherlands.[5] She owes $340 million in debt to the Portuguese company PT Ventures.[6]

Isabel dos Santos
Isabel dos Santos in 2019
Director of Sonangol
In office
May 2016 – 17 November 2017
PresidentJosé Eduardo dos Santos
João Lourenço
Personal details
Isabel dos Santos

(1973-04-20) 20 April 1973 (age 49)[1]
Baku, Azerbaijan SSR, Soviet Union[2]
CitizenshipRussia[3] and Angola
(m. 2002; died 2020)
Alma materKing's College London

In 2013 Forbes described how dos Santos acquired her wealth by taking stakes in companies doing business in Angola, suggesting that her wealth came almost entirely from her family's power and connections.[7][8] The Angolan government has, since 2018, been trying to prosecute Isabel dos Santos in past corruption that may have led to Angola's ongoing recession.[9] On 30 December 2019, the Luanda Provincial Court ordered the freezing of dos Santos's Angolan bank accounts and the seizure of her stake in local companies, including Unitel and Banco de Fomento Angola.[10]

She is under investigation in Portugal and has since assumed the United Arab Emirates as her official country of residence.[11][12][13] Two weeks later, the Angolan Government announced it was preparing the legal battle for the confiscation of dos Santos's assets in Portugal,[14] a process that in operation in the form of letters rogatory sent to Portugal to stop the transfer of funds from Portuguese Commercial Bank to a Russian bank.[which?][15] In December 2021 Dos Santos was banned from entering the United States for "Significant Corruption".[16][17]

Family and educationEdit

Isabel dos Santos was born in Baku, Azerbaijan SSR,[18] the eldest daughter of Angola's former President José Eduardo dos Santos and his first wife, the Russian-born Tatiana Kukanova, whom he met while studying in the then Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.[19][20][21] Her father's parents came from São Tomé and Príncipe.[22][23] She attended an all girls boarding school in Kent, Cobham Hall School, and St Paul's Girls' School in London.[24] She studied electrical engineering[25] at King's College in London.[26] There she met her husband from Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), Sindika Dokolo,[27] a son of a millionaire from Kinshasa and his Danish wife.[28]

Isabel dos Santos is a citizen of both Russia and Angola.[29]


Starting in 1997, Isabel dos Santos entered the business world, creating companies and holdings in Angola and mostly abroad, making substantial investments in high-profile enterprises, especially in Portugal.[30][31]

In the early 90s Isabel dos Santos started working as a project manager engineer for Urbana 2000, a subsidiary of Jembas Group, that had won a contract to clean and disinfect the city.[32] Following that, she set up a trucking business. The widespread use of walkie-talkie technology paved the way for a subsequent foray into telecoms.[33] In 1997, she started her first business, opening the Miami Beach Club,[34] one of the first night clubs and beach restaurants on Luanda Island.

In June 2016, she was appointed by her father as chair of Sonangol, the Angolan state oil company.[35] The controversial appointment in the wake of similar appointments of children of the president to key posts was short-lived, as João Lourenço, the new Angolan President, fired her just two months after being sworn into office.[36]

On 30 December 2019, the Luanda Provincial Court ordered the preventive seizure of personal bank accounts of dos Santos, her husband, Sindika Dokolo, and Mário Filipe Moreira Leite da Silva. According to the Attorney General's office, the three businesspeople entered into deals with the Angolan state through the companies Sodiam, a public diamond sales company, and Sonangol, the state oil company. With these deals, the Angolan state suffere d a loss of $1.14 billion.[37] The court produced a document showing that the assets and many others owned by dos Santos had been acquired using funds from two state-owned companies.[38] In the meantime, the Portuguese Attorney-General's Office has revealed that an investigation has been opened into a number of operations by Isabel dos Santos, following a charge laid by Ana Gomes, a Portuguese Member of the European Parliament.[11] Following the seizure, she has assumed the UAE as her official country of residence.[12][13]

After freezing Dos Santos assets in Angola and Portugal, Forbes removed her from the list of the richest people in Africa in 2021.[5]

Investments in PortugalEdit

Since 2008 dos Santos has had interests in key Portuguese sectors, such as telecommunications, media, retail, finance and the energy. In 2012 dos Santos made a series of acquisitions in ZON Multimédia, a telecommunications and media company providing mobile and fixed telephony, cable television, satellite television and internet. From an initial small stake in the company, she became the biggest shareholder, with 28.8%. The acquisitions were made via holding companies Jadeium and Kento (later Netherlands-based Unitel International Holdings BV).[39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48]

Through Santoro Holding she bought a 20% stake at Banco Português de Investimento.[49][50] She has other major stakes with the Angolan state oil company Sonangol through their mutual European Law holding, based in the Netherlands, named Esperanza Holding, in Portuguese Galp Energia.[51] Dos Santos is a founding member and board member of Banco BIC Português,[52] which recently acquired Banco Português de Negócios, a nationalized bank.

In December 2012, dos Santos announced the invitation for a merger of ZON with Sonaecom, proved in March 2013 by the General Assembly.[44] Eight months later, after the green light from the Competition Authority, the merger of the two companies was formalized on 27 August 2013, with the transfer to ZOPT, a special purpose vehicle created to advance the operation which became the owner of more 50% of the capital of the new group, the shares that dos Santos and Sonaecom hold on Zon and Optimus respectively. There was a capital increase of ZOPT through contribution in kind from 50 to 716 million euros, while Sonaecom subscribed 358 million shares of the company, by delivering 81.8% of its stake in Optimus. The Angolan businesswoman, on her turn, subscribed exactly the same number of shares of ZOPT, through her holdings Kento and Unitel International, delivering 28.8% of the stake in ZON.[53][54][55][56] With this transfer of shareholdings in Optimus and Zon, Sonaecom and dos Santos became holders of over 50% stake in the merged company: Zon Optimus SGPS. On this occasion, a new strategy for the company was announced by dos Santos, with a multimarket vision.[57][58] On 1 October 2013, dos Santos attended the first General Assembly of Zon Optimus.[59] Isabel dos Santos' investments in Portugal are in listed companies, which are therefore subject to official supervision of the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (CMVM).[60]

In November 2014, dos Santos launched a takeover bid for Portugal Telecom, SGPS, S.A., valuing the firm's shares at €1.35 a share, in what was seen as a rival bid to a previous €7 billion offer from Altice, though the offer made by Altice is on PT Portugal, not on PT SGPS.[61] On 1 December 2014, the Angolan businesswoman formally registered her offer at the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (Comissão do Mercado de Valores Mobiliários, CMVM, in Portuguese).[62]

In January 2017 Unitel, led by dos Santos, officialized the purchase of 2% of Banco Fomento de Angola (BFA) from BPI for 28 million euros and now controls 51.9% of the bank's capital.[63] The operation was approved by sector regulators, namely the National Bank of Angola (BNA) in December 2016. In February 2017 dos Santos decides to sell her position in Banco BPI, following the takeover bid launched by CaixaBank. Dos Santos arrived in 2009, stepped out[clarification needed] in 2017 and won more than 80 million euros: Santos' capital gain comes not only from the sale of the 18.5% holding on BPI, but also from the dividends from 2008 and 2009, worth around 12.6 million euros.[64]

Investments in AngolaEdit

With 51% control of Condis, dos Santos signed a joint partnership with the Portuguese Sonae group in April 2011 for the development and operation of a retail trading company in Angola. The entry in Angola by the Portuguese group led by Paulo de Azevedo was to be performed by the Continente (Angola), which planned to open the first supermarket by 2013 in Angola.[65]

Focus on telecommunicationsEdit

She created Unitel in partnership with Portugal Telecom, after a tender process she considered fair.[33] Also through Unitel International Holding, a platform for Unitel investments where Portugal Telecom has no presence, she acquired the mobile operator T+, in Cape Verde and gained the license for the establishment of the second telecom operator in São Tomé and Príncipe.[66][67][68] Under this investment dos Santos announced during a visit to São Tomé and Príncipe that Unitel will invest in education in the country to train engineers, managers and other technicians and also focus on job creation.[69]

By 2015, dos Santos owned a share of satellite-TV operator ZAP, that had in December 2013 acquired the rights to distribute Forbes in a number of Portuguese speaking countries, namely Portugal, Angola and Mozambique. It had been announced that most of the content would be produced by a local team, complemented by content for the North American edition, therefore potentially allowing influence on Forbes content. It was initially planned that the first edition of the Portuguese language Forbes would be published during the second quarter of 2014. [70]


Holdings of dos Santos in the recent years:[71][72]

  • Trans Africa Investment Services, a Gibraltar-based vehicle founded together with her mother for the diamond business
  • Unitel International Holdings B.V.: change of name of Kento and Jadeium, based in Amsterdam, company-vehicle for dos Santos' investment in telecommunications
  • Santoro Finance: company-vehicle for dos Santos' investment in Banco BPI based in Lisbon
  • Esperaza Holding B.V.: based in Amsterdam, energy, oil etc.
  • Condis: a retail business based in Luanda

Luanda LeaksEdit

On 19 January 2020 the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published a detailed report on how dos Santos amassed her wealth over the years. The report, based on information provided by corruption watchdog The Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa – which it called Luanda Leaks – said she "made a fortune at the expense of the Angolan people".[73]

The night of 22 January, three days after the leaks, her personal wealth manager and private banking director Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha was found dead in the garage of his house.[74]


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  11. ^ a b Simões, Lígia (10 January 2020). "Exclusivo. DCIAP investiga operações de Isabel dos Santos denunciadas por Ana Gomes" (in Portuguese). Jornal Económico. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
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  15. ^ Norinha, Vítor (3 January 2020). "De bestial a persona non-grata" (in Portuguese). Jornal Económico. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
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  17. ^ "Angola: Isabel dos Santos, 'Dino' and 'Kopelipa' sanctioned by US". The Africa 13 December 2021. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  18. ^ ISABEL DOS SANTOS – SEGREDOS E PODER DO DINHEIRO Archived 15 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Filipe S. Fernandes. Documentation (Portuguese)
  19. ^ The Guardian: "Isabel dos Santos, dubbed 'princess', named Africa's first female billionaire" by David Smith 25 January 2013
  20. ^ Mail & Guardian (Zambia): "Angola: Who's who in the palace?" by Louise Redvers 2 November 2012
  21. ^ The Australian: "Angolan Africa's first woman billionaire" 25 January 2013
  22. ^ Biography at MPLA website Archived 22 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine (in Portuguese)
  23. ^ Mail & Guardian: "Angola: Who's who in the palace?" by Louise Redvers 2 November 2012
  24. ^ Garside, Juliette; Burke, Jason (19 January 2020). "Isabel dos Santos: president's daughter who became Africa's richest woman". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  25. ^ Celso Filipe, Report about Isabel dos Santos on Negócios Online, December 2008
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  27. ^ "La Famille Dokolo : Ndona Tuluka – Nzolantima – Hanne – Manzanza – Sindika – Luzolo".
  28. ^ "Augustin Dokolo, an African entrepreneur". Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  29. ^ Дудина, Галина (Dudina, Galina) (21 January 2021). "Душа Сантуша: Как россиянка стала богатейшей женщиной Африки" [Soul of Santos: How a Russian woman became the richest woman in Africa]. Коммерсантъ (in Russian). Archived from the original on 21 January 2021. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
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  36. ^ by Reuters
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  43. ^ "Angola's dos Santos becomes top Zon shareholder". 9 May 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
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  46. ^ Millennium investment banking: Kento qualified holding comment 14 March 2011 (page 1)
  47. ^ "NYSE Euronext Company profile". Archived from the original on 10 July 2011.
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  49. ^ "Site RI". Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  50. ^ Bloomberg: Isabel dos Santos wants to raise stake at BPI, 22 December 2010
  51. ^ "Report on Voice of America (pt)". Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
  52. ^ "Banco BIC Português Official website". Archived from the original on 16 December 2012. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
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  55. ^ "Manager Transactions" (PDF). CMVM.
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  58. ^ "Isabel dos Santos The strategy of the new company will be open to new geographies". Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  59. ^ Isabel dos Santos comparece na AG da Zon Optimus Retrieved 7 July 2018 (portuguese)
  60. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 31 March 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CMVM
  61. ^ NOS shareholder bids for Portugal Telecom shares Reuters, 9 November 2014
  62. ^ Dos Santos launches bid for Portugal Telecom SGPS Reuters, 1 December 2014
  63. ^ BFA Announces Board Changes Bloomberg, January 2017
  64. ^ Isabel dos Santos steps out of BPI with 80 million ECO News, 14 February 2017
  65. ^ Portuguese group Sonae authorised to open hypermarkets in Angola Aicep Portugal Global. Retrieved 27 December 2011
  66. ^ "Unitel Internacional assina contrato para ser segunda operadora em São Tomé e Príncipe". ANGOP.
  67. ^ "Unitel takes over control of T+ in Cape Verde".
  68. ^ "Africa Telecom & IT – Unitel to become second operator in Sao Tome & Principe".
  69. ^ "Unitel STP to start operating in Sao Tome and Principe this year". Macauhub English. 30 May 2013.
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  71. ^ Os negócios de Isabel dos Santos em Portugal Archived 22 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  72. ^ A Angolana mais rica de Portugal, English: "The richest Angolan in Portugal",, 1 August 2012 (pt)
  73. ^ Isabel dos Santos made a fortune at the expense of the Angolan people, Luanda Leaks reveals., published 19 January 2020
  74. ^ "Luanda Leaks | Aparece muerto en Portugal el gestor financiero de Isabel dos Santos". El Confidencial (in Spanish). 23 January 2020. Retrieved 23 January 2020.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Isabel dos Santos at Wikimedia Commons